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WAITING FOR AN ECHO

THE MADNESS OF AMERICAN INCARCERATION

Yet another eye-opening, powerful demonstration of the profound structural problems with mass incarceration in the U.S.

A searing indictment of a system in which far too many people “languish within prisons and jails because of their poverty, their race, their addiction, or their mental illness.”

Psychiatrist Montross, who is accustomed to treating mentally ill clients in hospital settings, decided to explore what happened to similar people who landed in the American prison system. What she learned was horrifying—and not just for the inmates. Through her firsthand experiences and diligent research, she concludes that everybody in American society—the imprisoned mentally ill, the rest of the prison population, prison staff, police, attorneys, judges, jurors in criminal trials, loved ones in the free world, residents of neighborhoods into which former inmates have been released, and taxpayers whose money pays for punishment instead of rehabilitation—experiences harm from the status quo. Montross divides the book into three parts—“Our Prisoners,” “Our Prisons,” and “Our Choice”—each undergirded by copious anecdotes involving real people in distress. In the first section, the author explains why so many obviously mentally ill women and men end up in prison. As she notes, most crimes they commit are caused, at least in part, by their mental illness, and prison staff members are woefully unqualified to deal with psychiatric issues effectively. The second section includes chilling case studies of ineffective incarceration, especially regarding solitary confinement. The final section offers some hope, as Montross chronicles her research in Norway, where prisons have drastically lowered recidivism rates by emphasizing human rehabilitation. So why does the U.S. refuse to learn from such success stories? Montross consistently wrestles with that conundrum, but answers are elusive. In conclusion, the author quotes James Baldwin: “Nothing can be changed until it is faced.” In this revelatory book, the author faces the problem head-on. Read this and then turn to Jason Hardy’s The Second Chance Club to learn more about what happens after inmates are released.

Yet another eye-opening, powerful demonstration of the profound structural problems with mass incarceration in the U.S.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59420-597-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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THE AGE OF GRIEVANCE

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

The New York Times columnist serves up a cogent argument for shelving the grudge and sucking it up.

In 1976, Tom Wolfe described the “me decade” as a pit of mindless narcissism. A half century later, Bruni, author of Born Round and other bestselling books, calls for a renaming: “‘Me Turning Point’ would have been more accurate, because the period of time since has been a nonstop me jamboree.” Our present cultural situation, he notes, is marked by constant grievance and endless grasping. The ensuing blame game has its pros. Donald Trump, he notes, “became a victor by playing the victim, and his most impassioned oratory, such as it was, focused not on the good that he could do for others but on the bad supposedly done to him.” Bruni is an unabashed liberal, and while he places most of the worst behavior on the right—he opens with Sean Hannity’s bleating lie that the Biden administration was diverting scarce baby formula from needy Americans to illegal immigrants—he also allows that the left side of the aisle has committed its share of whining. A case in point: the silencing of a professor for showing an image of Mohammed to art students, neither religiously proscribed nor done without ample warning, but complained about by self-appointed student censors. Still, “not all grievances are created equal,” he writes. “There is January 6, 2021, and there is everything else. Attempts by leaders on the right to minimize what happened that day and lump it together with protests on the left are as ludicrous as they are dangerous.” Whether from left or right, Bruni calls for a dose of humility on the part of all: “an amalgam of kindness, openness, and silliness might be an effective solvent for grievance.”

A welcome call to grow up and cut out the whining.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781668016435

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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